Structured propositions and trivial composition

Synthese 197 (7):2991-3006 (2020)
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Structured propositions are often invoked to explain why intensionally equivalent sentences do not substitute salva veritate into attitude ascriptions. As the semantics is standardly developed—for example, in Salmon, Soames :47–87, 1987) and King :516–535, 1995), the semantic value of a complex expression is an ordered complex consisting of the semantic values of its components. Such views, however, trivialize semantic composition since they do not allow for independent constraints on the meaning of complexes. Trivializing semantic composition risks “trivializing semantics” Semantics versus pragmatics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2005). Yet, proponents of structured propositions suggest a route to reimpose substantive compositionality. While the mapping from a sentence to the structured proposition it expresses is trivially compositional, there is a non-trivial mapping from the structured proposition to its truth-value. This non-trivial level of semantic composition allows the meanings assigned to complex expressions to impose substantive constraints on the meanings of the simple ones. I first articulate the basic desiderata: an account of structured propositions capable of explaining attitude attributions and of delivering a non-trivially compositional semantics. I then show that the two-stage semantics proposed by standard proponents of structured propositions does not satisfy these joint goals.



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Bryan Pickel
University of Glasgow

Citations of this work

The Functional Composition of Sense.Bryan Pickel - 2021 - Synthese 199 (3-4):6917-6942.
Propositions as Structured Cognitive Event‐Types.Wayne A. Davis - 2021 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 102 (3):665-692.

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